Crude Oil Price Barely Moves on Inventory Data

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Thursday morning, showing that U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 4.6 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 431.9 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remained in the middle of the average range for this time of year.

Wednesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by about 6 million barrels in the week ending December 22. For the same period, analysts had consensus estimates for a decrease of 3.5 million barrels in crude inventories, a rise of about 1.3 million barrels in gasoline and a decrease of 780,000 barrels in distillate stockpiles.

Total gasoline inventories increased by 600,000 barrels last week, according to the EIA, and moved above the upper limit of the five-year average range. U.S. refineries produced about 10.2 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, up by about 100,000 barrels a day compared to the prior week. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s proxy for demand) averaged over 9.2 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up about 2% compared with the same period a year ago.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for February delivery traded down about 0.1% at around $59.57 a barrel and moved up to around $59.64 after the report’s release before returning to $59.57 minutes later. WTI settled at $59.64 on Wednesday and opened at $59.53 Wednesday morning. The 52-week range on February futures is $43.76 to $60.01.

S&P Global Platts Oil Futures Editor Geoffrey Craig said:

The NYMEX RBOB [reformulated gasoline] crack against West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rebounded above $15 per barrel (/b) last week after having fallen to its lowest level since February. The RBOB crack had dropped to $12.15/b on December 15, down from more than $19/b in early November, under pressure from rising U.S. gasoline stocks.

U.S. gasoline stocks have increased six straight weeks by 18.2 million barrels to 227.7 million barrels.

Even though gasoline stocks keep rising, the fact that the size of builds has moderated to levels consistent with seasonal norms has helped lift the RBOB crack off its multi-month lows.

In addition, implied gasoline demand jumped 335,000 b/d to 9.426 million b/d the week ended December 15. The same week also saw Atlantic Coast gasoline inventories drop 1.38 million barrels to 57.82 million barrels.

Week over week, U.S. crude oil exports fell by 648,000 barrels a day last week, and U.S. production dipped by 35,000 barrels a day to 9.75 million barrels a day. Exports averaged 1.21 million barrels a day last week and have a cumulative daily average for the year of 969,000 barrels a day, a 102% increase over the year-ago export total.

Distillate inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels last week and moved into the middle of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged 4.1 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 0.7% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged 5.5 million barrels a day last week, up about 300,000 compared to the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 8 million barrels a day, up by 159,000 compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 95.7% of capacity, with daily input averaging about 17.4 million barrels a day, about 335,000 more than the previous week’s average. Exports of refined products fell by 108,000 barrels a day last week to 5.58 million.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.462, up 3.2 cents from $2.430 a week ago and down 4.0 cents per gallon compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.302 on average in the United States.

Here is a look at how share prices for two blue-chip stocks and two exchange traded funds reacted to this latest report.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) traded up less than 0.1%, at $83.93 in a 52-week range of $76.05 to $91.34. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded down about 7.1%.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up about 0.1%, at $125.72 in a 52-week range of $102.55 to $126.20. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares are trading up about 6.6% over the past year.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: USO) traded up about 0.1%, at $11.52 in a 52-week range of $8.65 to $12.00.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEARCA: OIH) traded up about 1.0%, at $24.65 in a 52-week range of $21.70 to $35.20.